Saturday, March 21, 2009

Jake Grove and Eric Green: Contract Breakdowns and Football Analysis

The Dolphins have made two potentially significant signings in recent weeks, adding center Jake Grove and cornerback Eric Green via free agency.

Neither has come without its share of complaints from Dolphins fans. The Grove signing has some fans troubled, not just because they like Samson Satele but also because of Grove's age, injury history and money he received.

Meanwhile, Eric Green certainly addresses a need position, but he's not the most exciting name and certainly hasn't shown he can be a long-term NFL starter at cornerback.

In the following article, I examine the signings of Grove and Green from a football standpoint as well as a financial one.

Jake Grove

A Rimington Trophy winner as college football's best center during his time at Virginia Tech, Grove was drafted by the Oakland Raiders in the second round (45th overall) of the 2004 NFL Draft.

In five seasons in Oakland, Grove appeared in 54 games and started 46. He started a career-high 16 games for the Raiders in 2006.

Contract Breakdown

Grove signed a five-year, $29.5 million contract with the Dolphins on March 2. The deal reportedly includes $14.5 million in guaranteed money. His base salaries throughout the contract are as follows:
  • 2009: $2 million
  • 2010: $2.66 million
  • 2011: $3.32 million
  • 2012: $3.94 million
  • 2013: $3.08 million
  • Total: $15 million
No mysteries here. We have a total contract value of $29.5 million. We then have $15 million in base salaries and $14.5 million guaranteed. Adds up perfectly.

This is a good bit of money to pay Grove, so it's clear the team plans for him to be a key part of the offensive line in the coming years. Let's take a look at the signing from a football aspect.

Analysis

While Samson Satele's struggles in 2008 were well-documented, many Dolphins fans didn't consider center to be a big need position this offseason. Thus, plenty of fans were surprised when the Dolphins inked Grove to a big-money contract.

On the surface, Grove doesn't seem like much of an upgrade and certainly not one worth all that cash. He has a long history of injury problems, playing in all 16 games just one season out of five and missing a total of 26 games in five years. He also has similar size (6-4, 300) to Satele (6-3, 300) and the biggest complaint about Satele is not being strong enough to handle the bigger nose tackles.

Still, Grove is stronger and a much more physical and aggressive player, which gives him the edge over Satele in matchups versus the Vince Wilforks of the league. He's a proven lineman and capable starter who no doubt upgrades the Dolphins' line - a unit that had struggles at two spots throughout last season.

Though Grove has experience at guard and the right guard was a problem spot in 2008, it seems Grove is indeed being brought in to play center. There's speculation Satele could be given a chance to move to right guard and compete with Donald Thomas, though I suspect the organization likes Thomas better and would give him the edge. Don't be surprised to see Satele dealt before camp, possibly on draft day.



Eric Green

A third-round pick out of Virginia Tech in 2005, Green appeared in 51 games for the Cardinals (33 starts) in four pro seasons and recorded 167 tackles, two interceptions and 30 pass deflections. He started a career-high 11 games in 2007 and racked up 51 tackles and eight pass deflections.

As a restricted free agent in the 2008 offseason, Brown received a first-round tender offer from the Cardinals and was re-signed. A knee injury, coupled with the emergence of rookie Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, limited Green to 13 games and nine starts in 2008.

Contract Breakdown

Per Rotoworld.com, Green signed a two-year, $6 million contract with the Dolphin on March 12. These are his bas salaries:
  • 2009: $1.2 million
  • 2010: $1.65 million
  • Total: $2.85 million
Given that his base salaries make up less than half of the total value of the deal, it's likely Green received a decent signing bonus. However, this short-term contract still isn't very expensive and is certainly a manageable one for the Dolphins. This is classic third corner money and isn't a heavy investment should Green not win a starting job and/or perform well.

Analysis

Cornerback was certainly a need for the Dolphin this offseason after losing Andre' Goodman in free agency. After Will Allen, the Dolphins had a few dime backs (Nathan Jones and Joey Thomas) and a couple camp bodies (Will Billingsley and Scorpio Babers). Somebody, anybody, would have been a good addition.

Given Green's signing, it's obvious the Dolphins weren't willing to shell out big money for a corner like Domonique Foxworth, Jabari Greer and Bryant McFadden. Truth be told, that's probably a good thing because while corner was a need, none of those player are really worth the money they received. I'm in definite agreement with the Dolphins that you don't overpay for player just because you have a need at his position.

In Green, the Dolphins get a young, experienced and physical cornerback with good ball skills. He's not a quality starter at this point and isn't even a lock to start for the Dolphins, but he's certainly an upgrade over every corner on the team not named Will Allen and thus improves the secondary.

Of course, Green's signing does not mean the Dolphins won't take a cornerback high in the draft. I'd wager cornerback gets addressed by Miami within the first three rounds of the draft, and I myself am predicting one of the team's two second-round picks will be used on the position. While Green will have a leg up on the rookie to start in 2009 due to his experience, he'll certainly be pushed.

I understand Dolphins fans aren't too excited about Green and would prefer a bigger name/more proven player. However, before you get down on the signing of a 27-year-old cornerback with starting experience and a so-so career to this point, just remember the Dolphins signed a quite similar player in the 2006 offseason: Andre' Goodman.

As we all know, Goodman had a career year in 2008, and while he deserves a lot of credit, so do the Dolphins. Nick Saban deserves credit for bringing him in, and Bill Parcells, Tony Sparano and Todd Bowles deserve credit for coaching him up to the level at which he played last season. Green might not be the sexiest free agent addition, but we should have faith in a coaching staff that has shown they can get the most out of their players.